Over the last several years, cloud computing has transformed the world’s largest industries: banking and finance, insurance, education, healthcare, energy, retail, entertainment, and so much more. But because of the traditionally isolated and protective nature of physical security, the industry has been cautious about adopting cloud solutions.
Even as video security systems evolved from coax and analog-based systems to digital IP networks, the systems often remained stand-alone and isolated from an organization’s information management infrastructure. In today’s highly connected environment, corporations and organizations of all types and sizes are aggressively adopting cloud-first initiatives that quickly pull security systems into their business strategies in exciting ways.
Moving security and video management operations to the cloud can be highly advantageous for organizations with a cloud-first strategy. Such organizations understand the benefits of cloud-based solutions and are looking to leverage them to optimize operations, improve efficiency, and reduce costs.
When developing, modifying, or creating workflows and processes, cloud-first organizations are required to consider cloud solutions. Therefore, the cloud is part of all discussions, whether for immediate deployment or in longer-term migration strategies. This is certainly a development that security professionals need to get in front of and be prepared for those discussions.
There are several reasons why in-house security organizations should welcome a cloud-first business approach to their video management: increased cost effectiveness over maintaining on-site servers, enhanced reliability by removing the in-house burden of hardware and software maintenance, excellent system and organization-wide application visibility. Plus, the agility and scalability capabilities of a cloud-first approach to security allow organizations to test, standardize, replicate, and deploy solutions across the organization quickly and easily.
Deploying a large, on-premises video management system (VMS) traditionally requires a lengthy procurement process, costly hardware and ongoing maintenance. And, of course, along with larger on-prem systems comes the need for additional personnel, logistics, and capital investment — all factors which run contrary to a cloud-first initiative.
But while cloud deployments certainly reduce on-premises hardware requirements and instead leverage the cloud provider’s infrastructure, the cloud is not always about eliminating equipment or reducing storage costs; in many — or even in most cases — the cloud is about reducing and removing the bottlenecks and the internal processes involved with deploying physical security assets. The cloud can help security professionals achieve the same goals as with their on-prem systems, only much faster and with more flexibility.
Cloud VMS as a Business Accelerator
An interesting example of a non-traditional factor driving cloud VMS solutions can be seen in what’s happening with corporate mergers and acquisitions. The growth of the M&A market has accelerated at a record pace over the past several years, with cloud solutions redefining how organizations approach the inherent technology separations between companies. M&As are time-constrained events — typically fast-moving and directly tied to critical business outcomes and opportunities. Merger acceleration is a vital success driver in many of these transactions, and the cloud plays a crucial role in speeding up the process — and this has become particularly apparent with video security centralization and deployments.
With an M&A transaction, companies select and design data infrastructures and hosting environments for the newly acquired or separated companies, facilities or locations. The cloud, which encompasses different types of platforms, provides benefits that significantly speed up this traditionally very time-consuming process.
Large corporations can potentially acquire multiple, if not dozens of, different companies each year. As soon as those new assets become part of the parent, the security team becomes responsible for the new locations, and a scramble is on to figure out how to equip the new sights appropriately and to bring together and standardize the management of the system.
The security team can’t wait for a global IT team to design, specify, order, install and secure the network for a merger and acquisition — a process that can easily take a year or two. Onboarding new locations to the corporate network, setting the firewalls and the intranets, and all that IT needs to do from a corporate level simply takes time.
But the security team needs to quickly install a set of critical access point cameras and card readers to secure the facility. A cloud strategy, often with a hybrid on-prem/cloud approach, using the newly acquired facility's existing VMS greatly accelerates the process.
Additionally, the needed security infrastructure is often not clearly known or defined upfront, and system scaling might be required down the road. The limitless capacity and flexibility of hybrid cloud-based VMS solutions can help alleviate the additional sizing and procurement processes that typically take significant time.
Eliminating Integrator Headaches
Cloud-first initiatives and M&As are just two examples of business drivers that security integrators are now adapting their business models to address. These drivers and others are pulling integrators into the cloud in non-traditional and unexpected ways. But once the initial shift is made, the integrators discover that cloud solutions can cure many of their own headaches. Cloud solutions and cloud-first initiatives allow security integrators to do what they do best — to be highly strategic security professionals.
The true value of what a security systems integrator brings to the solution does not get replaced by the cloud. Security integrators don’t really get all that excited about servers and data-room infrastructure. At the end of the day, server design and maintenance really don’t bring integrators much income. With VMS cloud deployments, the integrator can focus on physical security, not managing and maintaining hundreds of Windows boxes at remote locations. The cloud provider works with the end customer's in-house organization to do that.
Throughout the system design process, integrators and engineers continuously decide on the wide range of hardware and software needed for a successful installation. Why not choose data solutions that are easy to install, configure, and maintain? Cloud connectivity allows integrators to troubleshoot and resolve issues without physically visiting sites. Connectivity can virtually eliminate commuting costs, travel time, scheduling conflicts and reduce the amount of time technicians spend supporting past installations leaving them more time to focus on new business.
From the client’s perspective, they get the benefit of continuing their daily business uninterrupted. With cloud deployments, the in-house IT team will have access to the same cloud tools that they are familiar with in other areas of the company. That means no system downtime, no scheduling maintenance calls, less costly repairs, and the ability to provide proactive maintenance. The combination of a cloud service provider, cloud-based tools, and an engaged integrator is a powerful support system for any end user.
Large, on-prem VMS systems can be complex to understand and operate. Malfunctions can happen for multiple reasons, and the troubleshooting process can be just as complex as the systems themselves. But with cloud deployments, clients can feel more confident knowing that they always have a team of experts monitoring their systems and ensuring that the systems perform precisely as intended.
VMS cloud deployments allow customers to make decisions today that they know will change. The cloud's flexibility and scalability enable internal teams to adjust to any business need or initiative. Hybrid on-prem/cloud VMS solutions, especially, result in highly flexible video security systems with adaptable compute, storage, and networking that adjusts easily to the needs of the business. Reduced on-premises hardware, partially outsourcing IT infrastructure, and turning CAPEX into OPEX help organizations optimize their cost structure and deliver better results.
End-user customers today need security partners with the experience and flexibility to transition security assets into the cloud. It is now critical that integrators be as proactive as possible and plan for what's coming — especially with large, multi-location, or multi-region projects with long-term design and installation phases where the cloud will most definitely be a part of the solution. Integrators need to expand their knowledge base and their partner networks now to be ready to succeed in a cloud solution environment.
From system and capability experimentation and proof-of-concept work to rigorous cloud-first initiatives, security and VMS transitions to the cloud are happening now. These new business drivers are certainly non-traditional for physical security professionals, but that opens the door to many new ways to solve problems and meet customer needs — which means growth and opportunity for the entire security channel.